A rampaging and deadly virus has shaken the core of American society. Millions of lives have been affected and unprecedented levels of chaos have snared in the face of the turmoil. From Arizona to Wyoming, the past couple of years has caused more confusion and uncertainty for the American worker than any time since the Great Depression. The name of this pandemic? Nope, it’s not COVID we’re talking about, but The Great Resignation.
Because this mass resignation erupted amidst the COVID epidemic, there are widely-held misconceptions that therefore it’s only because of this virus that millions are quitting their jobs. In this article, we’re going to explain why this doesn’t paint the full picture of the crisis. While COVID and the Great Resignation are intrinsically linked, the virus has been the catalyst rather than the cause of this seismic change in the corporate landscape.
We’re going to look at the myriad of reasons why people are quitting their jobs like never before. We’re also going to see if we can look to B Corps as inspiration for how we can have employees who are lining up for interviews rather than quitting in droves. But first, what the heck is actually going on?
Okay, let’s paint a little picture. It’s the 1950s and so long as you’re a white, heterosexual male, things are looking pretty good. You didn’t fancy college because there are comfortable, white-collar jobs lining up to have you on board. Before long, you have a house with no mortgage, a brand-new car, the latest consumer goods, a couple of kids, all on a single income. We admit that for every other segment of society things were looking bleak but the concept of the American dream was alive and flourishing for a good percentage of Americans. Work hard and you will achieve success. This message was widely regarded as fact. But what about now? These days if you tell this motto to somebody you’ll probably just be scoffed at.
If we compare that 1950s realistic prospect to today, it would take a lot of convincing that any progress has been made. Don’t believe us? Well, a third of teachers have two jobs just to survive, college students have debts they can never hope to pay off, and owning a house in the majority of the country? May as well start shopping on the moon. Let’s not kid ourselves. The death of the American middle-class didn’t happen overnight with COVID. It’s several decades of crony capitalism, of crooked politicians meddling with greedy businesses getting away with dirty tricks to keep the money to themselves. These “policies designed to favor the most wealthy at the expense of the majority” have culminated in people refusing to follow this downward spiral any longer. The COVID outbreak exacerbated the crisis of American employment rather than caused it. In fact, “job resignations were already at record highs in 2019, before Covid-19 knocked on our doors.”
I quit! A a 35-year-old college graduate could be earning in excess of $100,000, however, expenses such as student loan debt, a mortgage, or a child, will leave little money for emergencies or major purchases. Who can blame them for feeling frustrated?
Things are looking pretty bleak. In October 2021 there are over 10 million jobs that need to be filled and the number keeps rising. A staggering “4.4 million people quit their jobs” in September, a rise of 3%. Some analysts have claimed that this is pandemic related. Firstly, the closure of small businesses such as restaurants and bars are forcing many to seek jobs elsewhere. But that’s forced redundancies. That doesn’t explain why so many people are actively resigning, often without a guarantee of a better job – or indeed any job at all. It speaks volumes that staff pressure is so high that such a colossal amount of staff redundancies are occurring without this future guarantee.
It’s true that working in the service industry isn’t always considered the dream destination so turnover can be high for any given year. Another fact that alongside deep-rooted issues; long hours, and low pay, service-industry workers now have the very real threat of catching a deadly virus is a very real possibility.
We know that workers in the service and retail industries are packing it in. But 4.5 million? While these jobs often have higher turnover rates than average it’s wrong to conclude that it’s only these industries that are causing such record numbers of voluntary leavers. According to LogisticIT, the service industry isn’t even the sector that’s seen the most redundancies in the past twelve months. Manufacturing takes first place and what might also be surprising is that Professional, scientific & technical activities are third on the list with 4.5 redundancies per 1000 people.
So why is this happening? As Simon Sinek succinctly tells his audience, “it’s a shot across the bow against standard corporate culture.” People regardless of their industry, or rights, are no longer accepting lower real wages while working in stressful and oftentimes dangerous jobs with their benefits and appreciation severely restricted. Across the country workers are demanding to be “seen, wanted, felt, [and] understood.” It’s a damning state of affairs. When we consider many of those resigning are not going to put their feet up by the fire now they’ve left their job but instead will have to be even more frugal, with greater uncertainty than ever. Sinek calls this limbo the “great unknown” and that the reason record numbers of people are ‘voluntarily’ entering this incredible uncertainty is due to “substandard corporate cultures.” Considering the number of redundancies in a plethora of industries and skills, we have to accept this as an undeniable fact.
Now that we understand the problem we have to work out the solution. It simply isn’t feasible in the long run to have such a division between employees and their employers. There’s a myriad of reasons for this: potentially wrecking the economy, seeing corporations uproot, move overseas and take these jobs with them, and the most critical of all: having a large percentage of American workers being so disillusioned with their existing conditions that entering this “unknown” is the lesser of two evils.
From this data, shall we, therefore, condemn every corporation in America? No. As Sinek concludes, “great companies are losing a lot fewer people in the ‘Great Resignation.’”
So, who are these “great companies” and what can we learn from them?
Although we’ve reached unprecedented levels of resignations, B Corps remain largely unaffected. While we don’t have the exact figures on what percentage of employees quit their B Corp job, what we do know is that although “less than 50% of U.S. workers feel that they are in good jobs” for those working at B Corps a staggering “98 percent… of employees surveyed at Certified B Corporations say they are highly satisfied with where they work,” according to B Impact Assessment results. Because retaining staff is so critical for the success of any organization, what can ‘regular’ companies learn from Nathan Christensen, CEO of HR powerhouse Mineral thinks companies should listen to their employees who are searching for greater fulfillment in their careers. Christensen believes “we need to turn the so-called great resignation into a ‘great re-engagement’”.
The priority has to be reimagining the corporation from a profit-first ideology into striving for a genuine purpose as the centerfold of the company’s being.
This may sound idealistic, that no corporation will intentionally damage their profit margin but as the number of B Corps are growing, including huge, international businesses such as Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s, growth and common decency can not only co-exist but be supplementary to each purpose, to “transform existing businesses into human-centered organizations.” As Laura Gordon writes, “not only have they created working environments where staff feel they are doing something that counts but they [B Corps] have also found the secret to boosting consumer confidence and research shows they’re also likely to grow faster too.”
Giving priority to stakeholders rather than just shareholders is something every B Corp has in common. By being legally bound to put the interests of their community, the environment, and its workforce, it can be no surprise that B Corps have been relatively unaffected by the ‘great resignation.’
Companies are starting to get worried about the number of their employees who are leaving. There are multiple reports of customer service industries hiring those previously considered too young or too old to work these jobs. In white-collar jobs, companies are starting to increase wages and give financial incentives for new and existing employees. This doesn’t end the problem of job dissatisfaction and a continuation of current trends is foreseeable.
We have to accept that wages are not the defining factor for workers but only one of the multiple areas in which job satisfaction is measured. It’s only when all of our physiological needs are met, i.e. working for an altruistic purpose, being treated and valued with respect, and having a say in how the company’s run. Wages alone are a lazy assumption of what makes a worker loyal to a company. It’s by following this B Corp methodology that will give hope, not just at seeing an end to the great resignation but each employee finding meaning and love in what they do.
Giving a gift. It sounds so easy yet finding that perfect something for an employee who really deserves it can be tricky. Not only do